Nov 242013
 

Still high from the feeling of euphoria after beating the Columbus Blue Jackets – yes, it’s come to that – the Vancouver Canucks squared off against their arch-enemies, the Chicago Blackhawks, last night.

And things were going well too. The Canucks stopped the first shot (!), opened the scoring (!!) on the powerplay (!!!), and took a lead into the third period against the Blackhawks.

Roberto Luongo was playing well too, making some big saves when the Canucks gave up numerous Hawks odd-man rushes and keeping his team’s precarious 1-0 lead intact even when Chicago started dominating play.

Or at least he was until a 9-second span early in the period in which the Blackhawks scored twice, claimed the lead and never relinquished it.

*sob*

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Nov 242013
 
Photo credit: Reuters

Photo credit: Reuters

One night after handily defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-2, the Vancouver Canucks were seemingly in control of their matchup vs. the Chicago Blackhawks last night.  The game was a fast-paced affair and while both sides traded decent chances, Roberto Luongo was extremely sharp.

Then, in the blink of eye, the Blackhawks potted two quick third-period goals and the Canucks fell into a hole from which they couldn’t climb out of.

The time between the two goals?  Nine seconds.

It was shocking, disappointing, and disheartening.  Despite a valiant effort for the rest of the game, the Canucks couldn’t solve Corey Crawford and lost by a familiar 2-1 score.

I’ve compiled some other things that can happen quickly in this new CHB Top 10:  The Top 10 Things You Can Accomplish in 9 Seconds:

10: Compose a tweet asking for submissions to the CHB Top 10.

9: “The Blackhawks can almost win two Stanley Cups!” – submitted by @puckjim

8:  “Win a hockey game…if you’re Chicago.” – submitted by @MitchEmDee

7: Finish 69.2% of your first shift with the Canucks…if you’re Mats Sundin (his first-ever shift with the team was 13 seconds long).

6: “Draw a straight line. Oh wait, does erasing count for 2 seconds?”  – submitted by @elmeebaterina

5: Set the world record for the 100 metre race.

4: “Have me play a better shift than Zack Kassian… and I can’t skate.” – submitted by @jasonclowers24

3: “Listen to Jonathan Toews without falling asleep.” – submitted by @wronsweeney

2: Complete one speed stacking cycle – if you’re Jacob Imoo (see video below).

1:  “Make a baby (brown chicken brown cow).” – submitted by @geoff_heith

Nov 222013
 

185443526_slide
(source: nhl.com)

Vancouver Canucks (11-8-4)
Columbus Blue Jackets (8-11-3)

The Blue Jackets are in Vancouver to take on the Canucks for their second and final meeting this season. In their last meeting in Columbus on October 20th, the Blue Jackets won 3-1. Blue Jackets goaltender Curtis McElhinney, was impressive with 37 saves.

The Canucks are looking for their first win in 5 games. Their current 5-game losing streak is their longest since an 8-game losing streak back in January 2009. And we all remember how they bumped that slump, right?

As for the Blue Jackets, they have won 2 out of their last 5 games.

Who’s Hot

Blue Jackets forward RJ Umberger has recorded a point in the last 3 out of 4 games (2 goals and 1 assist). Defensemen James Wisniewski is the Blue Jackets leading point scorer; he also has 3 points in the Blue Jackets’ last 4 games.

Despite the Canucks’ recent play, goaltender Roberto Luongo has been doing well with a 0.924 save percentage in November, including a 0.933 save percentage in his last 3 games.

Who’s Out

The Vancouver Canucks are still without Jordan Schroeder (ankle), who’s on IR and not expected back until late December.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are missing quite a few players. Brandon Dubinsky, the Blue Jackets second-leading scorer (5 goals) injured his foot in Tuesday’s game and will be out. The Blue Jackets are still without Nathan Horton (shoulder), Cody Bass (thumb), Matt Calvert (abdomen), Dalton Prout (back) and Marian Gaborik (knee).

Nov 202013
 

Another game, another loss. With their 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers (!), the Vancouver Canucks have now lost 5 games in a row for the first time in nearly 5 years.

The good news is, they scored more than a single goal in a game for the first time in almost 2 weeks. And Roberto Luongo again had a solid game, stopping 34 of 36 shots in regulation and 2 of 3 Panthers in the shootout. But the Canucks’ offensive woes extended into the shootout, and again, no Canucks shooter was able to beat Tim Thomas mano-a-mano; in 4 games that went to the shootout this season, they’ve only scored on 2 of 15 shootout attempts.

Yeah, sure, let’s go with that.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Nov 152013
 

So, so close. 65 more seconds and the narratives today would have had a markedly different tone.

After beating their playoff nemesis in consecutive games, the Vancouver Canucks would’ve been touted as playoff contenders.

Roberto Luongo would’ve had his 3rd shutout of the season, and perhaps start shutting up some of his critics. (Or not. Who’re we kidding here?)

But alas, after controlling much of the game, the Canucks couldn’t finish on all but one of their scoring chances, gave up the tying goal with 65 seconds left in regulation time, took a penalty in OT, and then dropped a 2-1 decision to the San Jose Sharks.

*sigh*

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Nov 152013
 
"The Goon" wrestled in the WWE (former WWF) in 1996.

“The Goon” wrestled in the WWE (former WWF) in 1996.

I have a confession to make: I watch professional wrestling.

While I don’t follow it as closely as I used to in my teenage and young adult years (I can get through a 3-hour show on my PVR in about 15 minutes), I admit that I can still be entertained by these “sports entertainers”.

Some of the most memorable and exciting moments in wrestling take place when a hero switches allegiances and becomes a villain. Most wrestling fans know that the good guys are called “faces” and the bad guys are called “heels”; thus when a good guy becomes a bad guy it’s called a “heel turn” (I know…it sounds like a dance move).  The most effective heel turns are sudden, forceful, and surprising (I’ve included two of the most famous ones in this blog).

Thus, combining my love for hockey and my strong like (haha) for wrestling, I present to you the Top 10 Hockey Heel Turns:

10:  Slamming a teammate’s arm in the bench door.

9:  “Luongo giving Kesler a Stunner.” – submitted by @MikeVersace1

8:  “Refuse the next line change and head to the dressing room.” – submitted by @jortillan

7:   “Submarining a teammate during a 2 on 0 rush.” – submitted by @PPGoose

6:  Hitting a teammate in the head with a broadcast camera.

5:  Mats Sundin with the shootout winner in Toronto.” – submitted by @THECooop

4:  “Get a fan favourite traded, take captaincy, un-retire #11.” – submitted by @PPGoose

3:  Scoring on your own net and then pointing at the fans as they pelt you with garbage.

2:  “Hugging your teammate after a goal then throwing him through a plate of glass windows.” – submitted by @jortillan

1:  “No matter what, jersey must be pulled off to reveal another jersey.” – submitted by @jbowmancouver

Nov 132013
 

Brad Richardson , Christopher Tanev, Jason Garrison, Mike Santorelli

Photo credit: canada.com

With 20 games now in the bag in the Vancouver Canucks’ 2013/2014 season, here are some good, some bad, and some surprises and disappointments.

It’s Torts’ team now.

It wasn’t a surprise when GM Mike Gillis decided at the end of last season to fire long-time Canucks coach, Alain Vigneault. It was, however, perhaps a bit more surprising when the guy he tapped to succeed AV’s gum-chewing, hands-off approach with a gruff, known taskmaster in John Tortorella. By the end of last season, much was made about the complacency that developed, maybe in part because of AV’s player-friendly approach, and Torts’ coaching style was as far-removed from this as possible.

He is, indeed, more vocal behind the bench – and off it, I suppose. He’s more hands-on, and we’ve seen him make in-game adjustments. He relies heavily on stars like the Sedins and Ryan Kesler, all of whom sit in the top 5 among forwards in average ice-time. He’s shown he’s willing to give more ice-time to players who are going, or sit those who aren’t. He’s not afraid to play anyone in any situation, except maybe the 4th line.

But despite this, the doom and gloom that a lot of us predicted hasn’t materialized. And in fact, we can argue that Torts has even had the desired effect on this team. For the most part, gone is the complacency and casual play. On most nights in this early season, the Canucks forecheck hard and battle hard along the boards. Regardless of the score, they play an aggressive style and keep their foot on the pedal, which has helped them overcome deficits – only 4 teams have more wins than the Canucks when trailing after the first period, and only 1 team has more wins than them when trailing after the second period.

At the Canucks’ Summer Summit, Tortorella said he wanted the Canucks to be aggressive and to be tough to play against. And 20 games in, we’re beginning to see this. It’s Torts’ team now, and it looks like the Canucks are buying what he’s selling.

The Sedins are still stars.

A few years ago, before they signed their current contracts, numerous armchair GMs wanted the Sedins gone. Believe it or not, back then, a fair number of Canucks fans were willing to trade them for a bag of pucks and then use the cap money they save to sign Olli Jokinen and Marian Gaborik. It’s unthinkable now, especially after a couple of Art Ross trophies, a Lester Pearson trophy, and some modest (by this franchise’s standards) playoff success.

Or so you’d think.

This summer, there were once again rumblings from the bandwagon that the Canucks were better off to let the Sedins walk through free agency. Or trade them to a true Cup contender and kickstart a rebuild. But once again, at least through the first quarter of the season, they’re proving their doubters wrong. With 20 points (3 goals and 17 assists), Henrik Sedin sits 13th overall in NHL scoring, just 3 points back of league leader, Sidney Crosby. He’s recorded at least a point all but 4 of the 20 games he’s played. (Though 3 of those 4 games were the Canucks’ last 3 games.) Daniel isn’t far behind either. With 17 points (7 goals and 10 assists), he sits 24th overall in NHL scoring. Even at 33 years old, they’ve both taken on more responsibility, now taking a regular shift on the penalty-kill and already logging more PK time through 20 games as they have in the last 2 seasons combined.

As a famous person once said, they get knocked down, but they get up again, and they’re never gonna keep them down.

The newbies have fit in nicely.

There are some of us who probably still have the memory of signing or acquiring the likes of Marco Sturm, Samuel Pahlsson and Cam Barker fresh in our minds so it was somewhat acceptable when we looked cynically at Mike Gillis’ reset this off-season, which included signing Mike Santorelli and Brad Richardson, and picking up Ryan Stanton from waivers.

But with 3 guys who were pencilled in the Canucks’ top-9 – Jannik Hansen, Jordan Schroeder and David Booth – spending significant time out of the lineup due to injuries, the newbies have actually done quite well in their place. Santorelli, who hails from Burnaby, sits 4th in team scoring – behind just the Sedins and Kesler – with 12 points (5 goals and 7 assists). Richardson sits 6th with 5 goals, including 2 shorties, and 10 points in just 13:33 minutes of average ice-time per game (8th among Canucks forwards). And Stanton has been dependable in his 14 minutes per game in a third pairing role. Plus, Stanton has also contributed 7 points (3rd among Canucks defensemen). Santorelli, Richardson and Stanton have been pleasant surprises early this season.

The powerplay has been powerless.

There was a stretch midway through last season during which the Canucks scored 2 powerplay goals in 52 powerplay opportunities – a whopping 3.8% success rate – in 20 games. They finished the 2012/2013 season with a 15.8% success rate (22nd in the NHL), which was 4 percentage points lower than their success rate in 2011/2012 (19.8%, 4th in the NHL), which was almost 5 percentage points lower than their success rate in 2010/2011 (24.3%, 1st in the NHL).

In response, out went Newell Brown and the drop pass. Well, at least out went Newell Brown. And in comes Jason Garrison to the first PP unit. Wait, never mind, scratch that.

Despite changes in their roster and behind the bench, the Canucks’ powerplay hasn’t changed much. Okay, it has. It’s even worse now than it was last season, sputtering at a woeful 9.7% (28th in the NHL, ahead only of the Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers), and having only scored 6 powerplay goals in 20 games this season.

At least the PK is okay.

With a penalty-killing rate of 89.4%, the Canucks currently have the best PK in the NHL. Not only that, they’ve also scored 3 shorthanded goals, which is tied for 2nd in the NHL. Add to this that they’ve been shorthanded longer than all but 7 teams, and you have to admit, the PK has been one of their bright spots.

Luongo’s been good, but he needs to be better.

By Roberto Luongo’s usual October standards, he actually had a good start to the season and currently sits in the top 10 in wins among all NHL goaltenders. But behind the 9 wins in 16 games – only 6 goalies have more wins than he does – are some pretty average numbers. His 0.911 overall save percentage ranks him just 26th among all NHL goaltenders. His 2.41 GAA ranks him 21st. He has a 0.910 save percentage on even-strength (51st), and a 0.914 save percentage when the Canucks are shorthanded (23rd). Lu’s been good. But if the Canucks have any hope in getting out of the tough, tough, tough Pacific Division, they need him to be better.

Nov 132013
 

Chris Higgins of the Vancouver Canucks scores against the San Jose Sharks.

Photo credit: CBC.ca

The game of hockey is all about streaking. No, I’m not talking about Will Ferrell running down the street in his birthday suit a la “Old School”; I’m talking players and teams doing good or bad things for a consecutive period of time. Whenever we analyze or preview a game we talk about who’s on scoring streaks which teams are winning and which teams are losing. These streaks dominate our fantasy pools, for better or worse, and allow the casual fan to determine who is playing well and who isn’t.

Last Thursday, the Canucks snapped a 9-game losing streak (excluding pre-season) to the San Jose Sharks. They played a confident and complete game, getting contributions from players not named Sedin or Kesler – secondary scoring – and handed the Sharks a rare loss in the mighty “Shark Tank”. They’ve had their hand in other streaks, some great, others downright depressing.

Here are the top 5 streak-related moments in Canucks history:

5) Alex Burrows (2012) – During the 2011/2012 NHL season, the Detroit Red Wings had put together a miraculous streak of 23 wins in a row at home. The Canucks were itching to end the streak even stating to the media that they hoped the Red Wings kept winning so they could take a crack at them. The game ended up going to a shootout where Alex Burrows pulled off his signature backhand deke to complete the epic barn-burner.

4) Harold Druken (2001) – The Canucks had not made the playoffs in 4 years and were desperate to get back to the big dance. With a young core and some promising leadership, they managed to put themselves in a position to clinch the 8th and final playoff spot. Unsung hero Harold Druken provided the dramatics in overtime against the Los Angeles Kings.

3) Roberto Luongo (2008) – Lu showed us why he made the big bucks with this franchise record shutout streak in November of 2008. He strung together nearly 243 minutes of shutout hockey, and if not for injuries, would have surely been in contention for the Vezina.

2) Alex Burrows (2009) – This shorthanded goal from Alex Burrows ushered in the new era of Canuck dominance and effectively snapped an 8-game losing streak. Never has a team been more relieved to beat the Carolina Hurricanes in regular season play.

1) Alex Burrows (2011) – Yes, another Alex Burrows goal. Apparently this guy is clutch. This goal ended an era of Chicago Blackhawks playoff dominance over the Canucks and set the stage for a long playoff run that brought us within one game of the Stanley Cup. Burrows picks off a pass in overtime of game 7 and blasts one home to avoid 3 straight years of playoff defeat to the Blackhawks.

Nov 092013
 
The Saturday meeting between Vancouver and Los Angeles is the first of five.  (Credit. nhl.com)

The Saturday meeting between Vancouver and Los Angeles is the first of five this regular season.
(Credit. nhl.com)

If you’ve been a Canucks fan for the last couple of seasons, you’ve probably wished a plague on the entire Los Angeles Kings roster at one time or another. Between the heated playoff battles, the taunting tweets, the mimicked slogan, there’s no love lost between these 2 teams, and the thought of a casual Saturday game between them likely sends you into a fit of anxiety.

It’s a brand new season, of course, and now both teams to renew their rivalry, with the first of 4 regular season meetings in La-la-land tonight at 7:00 PM. The Canucks won 2 of 3 meetings with the Kings last season, and were 1-0-1 at the Staples Center. As of this morning, they’re 4 points up on their now division rivals, but the Kings have 2 games in hand.

What to Watch

Another battle of Olympic proportions.

Jonathan Quick may very well be Team USA’s starting goaltender for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. And of course, Roberto Luongo, and his pretty darn good start to the season, surely has him still in competition for a spot with Team Canada.

Luongo’s numbers are just a tad better than Quick’s at the moment. Luongo’s 0.916 save % is 19th in the NHL, while Quick’s 0.901 save % is 35th. Luongo’s 2.23 GAA is 16th in the NHL, while Quick’s 2.48 GAA is 24th.

Luongo is playing just a tad better as well. He hasn’t allowed more than 2 goals a game in his last 7 starts, and has a 0.935 save % in that span.

Before Quick posted a shutout against the Buffalo Sabres in his most recent start on Thursday, he had allowed 3 or more goals in 8 of the 13 games he’d played.

Who’s Hot

Coach John Tortorella has juggled the Canucks’ lines in the early season, and his most recent line combinations have been working really well. At the very least, the team’s secondary scoring concerns have been somewhat alleviated as the second, third and fourth lines have produced 8 of the Canucks’ last 10 goals.

In particular, the second line has been quite effective. Mike Santorelli, perhaps the biggest surprise of the season, has a 3-game point streak, and has a total of 5 goals and 12 points in 18 games. Linemate Chris Higgins with 6 goals and 10 points in 18 games as well, including 5 points in his last 6 games. Alex Burrows, who just recently returned from injury, recorded his first 2 points of the season in the Canucks’ most recent game, a win against the San Jose Sharks last Thursday.

For the Kings, Anze Kopitar has 5 points (3 goals and 2 assists) in a 3-game point streak, and leads the team with 16 points. Likewise, Mike Richards has 5 points (2 goals and 3 assists) in a 3-game point streak; he sits 2 points behind Kopitar for the team lead in points.

Who’s Out

No new additions to the Canuck’s injury list, thank goodness. Jordan Schroeder remains out along with Dale Weise and Jannik Hansen. Meanwhile, David Booth is with the Utica Comets on a conditioning stint. He notched an assist last night as the Comets finally won their first game of the season.

For the Kings, Jarret Stoll is questionable for the game, and Jeff Carter, who is currently tied for the Kings’ team lead in goals (5), is on the injured reserve and won’t play.

Nov 072013
 

9054506
The Vancouver Canucks top line. Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler.
(Source: faceoff.com)

Vancouver Canucks (10-5-2)
San Jose Sharks (10-1-4)

The Vancouver Canucks will continue their Pacific Division swing tonight as they once go up against the San Jose Sharks. The Canucks are looking for their first win of the season against the Sharks. Scratch that, the Canucks are looking for their first win against the Sharks after 9 (!) straight losses. This is the third of four games between the two teams this season, with the Sharks obviously winning the first two, both by a 4-1 score.

After winning 10 of their first 12 games, the Sharks have lost 3 straight now. Although, they’ve at least picked up a point in each one. In fact, they’ve picked up at least a point in 14 of their first 15 games this season. Their only loss in regulation so far was against the Boston Bruins in Boston a couple of weeks ago. As for the Canucks, they’ve lost 2 of their last 3 games (1-1-1).

Who’s Hot

The Canucks’ top line of Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Ryan Kesler continue to be hot. Daniel has 9 points (5 goals – 4 assists) in a 7-game point streak, Hank is on a career-high 12-game point streak (3 goals – 14 assists), and Kes has points in 7 of his last 8 games (6 goals – 4 assists – 10 points).

Roberto Luongo has also been playing well. He has a 0.950 save percentage in his last 3 games.

For the Sharks, Joe Pavelski is on a 4-game point streak (3 goals – 1 assist – 4 points) and leads the Sharks in scoring with 17 points (6 goals – 11 assists).

Who’s Out

The Vancouver Canucks are still without forwards Jordan Schroeder, Jannik Hansen, Dale Weise and David Booth. Booth is on a conditioning assignment in Utica, and isn’t expected to return until mid-November.

The San Jose Sharks are expected to play without forward Brent Burns (mouth). Forwards Adam Burish and Raffi Torres are both recovering from surgery and will not be playing.

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